Morrow Pacific project deadline shifts to September
By Andy Giegerich
Digital Managing Editor
Despite the new permitting delays, Ambre Energy hopes to finish the Morrow Pacific project by the end of 2014.
The Oregon Department of State Lands will delay a key deadline that Ambre Energy it needs to meet before the company can export coal through the Port of Morrow.
In a March 13 letter, John Thomas, Ambre’s Morrow Pacific Project’s general counsel, asked the state to move a permitting decision from April 1 to Sept. 1. Ambre Energy “underst[ood] that DSL is inclined to deny our permit, based not on the merits of the project, but instead” based on a delay of other federal permits needed for the project.
The Morrow Pacific Project would allow coal to be taken by rail to a new Port of Morrow terminal. From there, it would be transferred to covered barges and shipped downriver to a facility at the Port of St. Helens and loaded onto ocean-going ships.
Liz Fuller, a spokeswoman for the project, said the DSL deadline delay doesn’t threaten the project’s timeline. Ambre hopes to complete the work, primarily, construction of a Port of Morrow dock, by late 2014.
The project’s timeline has already been delayed once.
“It’s really not a big deal: It’s fairly common that agencies and companies have a back-and-forth” when working on permitting, Fuller said. “The (extra five months) doesn’t affect the project’s timeline whatsoever.”
Michael O’Leary, a climate and fuel policy consultant with the National Wildlife Federation’s Pacific Regional Center, maintains the delay simply doesn’t bode well for the coal transport project.
“What that effectively means is that when the applicant has a motivation to extend the timeline, say for example if they think they risk a rejection from the agency given the information on the table, and they want more time to make revised or additional responses, it becomes (in) their interest to punt the deadline ahead in hopes of a better result,” O’Leary said.
Debate on the Morrow project and other coal initiatives has become a hot-button political issue.
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